Caritas Interationalis: Earthquake Victims in Dire Need

“Situation is Worsening,” Says Aid Worker

ROME, MAY 16, 2008 ( The news arriving from China is that the situation is worsening, says Jack de Groot, director of Caritas Australia.

A major earthquake, China’s deadliest since 1976, with a magnitude of 7.9, struck the Sichuan Province of China on Monday. China put the death toll at 21,500 people, but has said it expects it to exceed 50,000 people.

De Groot said “an estimated 25,800 people are still buried under debris and rubble and another 14,000 people are still missing. At this stage 119,048 people have been affected.”

A powerful aftershock with a magnitude of 6.1 hit the province Tuesday, exacerbating the impact of the disaster. Large water pipes have broken exposing drinking water to contamination and there are now fears of possible viral outbreaks.

At the epicentre in Wenchun county, 2,000 cell phone towers toppled and buildings collapsed, making access to new information difficult. Blocked roads from landslides and other obstructions have compromised physical access into the affected county.

During his general audience Wednesday, the Pope launched an appeal for “the people of Sichuan and adjoining provinces in China, so harshly affected by the earthquake that has provoked serious loss of human life, left large numbers missing and caused incalculable damages.”

The Pope asked the Lord “to give support to all those involved in meeting the immediate needs” of the victims.

Caritas Internationalis, the network of 162 national Caritas organizations, including Caritas Hong Kong and Caritas Australia, are coordinating the efforts of its members. Staff members are being sent to the area to asses how best to respond and what the immediate needs of the survivors will be, as well as putting together a team of personnel to provide counseling to the survivors.

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